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'Water Speculation' Pushes Gila River on to 'Most Endangered' List

April 28, 2008

Datil, NM - The Gila River is being endangered by out-of-state speculators -- but, perhaps, not the kind you would expect. A New York company hopes to pump billions of gallons of groundwater from the San Augustine Basin and pipe it to the Rio Grande, to help New Mexico meet its water compact obligations to Texas.

The group American Rivers contends the plan could impact the flows of the Gila, which it lists as one of the country's 'Ten Most Endangered Rivers' in a new report. Bruce Frederick, staff attorney for the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, calls it "water speculation," that runs contrary to the public's welfare.

"That's not allowed under New Mexico water law. You can't speculate in water; you have to put water to beneficial use within a reasonable amount of time."

The company, Augustin Plains Ranch LLC, describes its plan as creating a new source of water for cities along the Rio Grande. Opponents claim it amounts to a "water grab" that could pit bigger cities against rural areas. American Rivers'Vice President for Conservation, Andrew Fahlund, says the state should look instead to conservation measures to meet its obligations, and make protecting the Gila a priority.

"The Gila, in its natural state, is one of the great rivers in the nation. In fact, it's the place where we founded the Wilderness Act in this country. It would be a tragedy to move forward with this project."

The full report is available online, at http://www.americanrivers.org.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM